The Cost Comparison - Real Washable Cloth Nappies v Disposable Nappies

Written by Tory on the 15 February 2008

The Cost Comparison - Real Washable Cloth Nappies v Disposable Nappies

One of the main reasons a lot of people start to use reusable cloth nappies, or at least look into it is for financial reasons. The bottom line is disposables are expensive, you have to buy them week in week out for around 2.5 years on average (some babies train before this age and for others it's later), you throw them in the bin and you buy more! There are of course other costs such as disposal costs and environmental costs, but here I would like to just look at the cost from your family budget for using disposable nappies compared to using washable nappies. I'll be adding different countries as time goes on!

UK Price Comparison - the Cost of Disposable Nappies

I have used Tescos online to research the prices on 11th February, 2008. I looked at 83 different nappies, in different sized packs, for newborn through to toddler (I did not include older children's night nappies - they were massively expensive and I didn't want to count something that not everyone will use), using various brands from Tescos own to Pampers and Huggies. When averaged out the cost per nappy came in at £0.20 per nappy, if you used only 'brand' nappies you would spend more than this, supermarket brands a little less. I am going to work on an average of 7 nappies per day, when a baby is very small you will change much more often than this and as they get older perhaps a little less but I believe this to be a fair assumption to make! Many children will also be in nappies at night beyond this age, I know, but lets keep it simple! So, lets work it out:

7 nappies/day @ £0.20/nappy = £1.40/day

7 days/week @ £1.40/day = £9.80/week

52 weeks in a year so 130 weeks in 2.5 years

130 weeks @ £9.80/week = £1274 to spend on disposable nappies over an average childs time in nappies

If you are using disposable nappies it makes sense you would be using disposable wipes as well (although as a cloth nappy user you may choose to do this too!) so you can add around £2.39 a week (if you only use 1 pack!). This is based on my Tescos 'shop', single pack price for Pampers or Johnsons - I choose them as Huggies were even more, I could have got own brand cheaper or gone for a 'natural' one for more again but felt this was fairly representative.

130 weeks of wipes @ £2.39/week = £310.70 to spend on throw away wipes over 2.5 years

Total cost in the UK if using disposable nappies and wipes over 2.5 years = £1584.70

UK price comparison - The Cost of Washable Cloth Nappies

I'm going to look at the costs for 3 different systems, a budget birth to potty pack (sized), a more costly birth to potty pack (one size mix of fitted and pocket nappies) and some pocket nappies (sized). I'll also look at washing costs as well as washable wipes costs.

The Budget Fitted, Sized Cloth Nappy Option

Perhaps the obvious choice here would be a Bambino Mio birth to potty pack (as it is perceived as being a cheap option) but I've had too many people say they've been turned off cloth nappies by buying these. Also, I've not been able to help myself look at this prefold option and a birth to potty pack is £225 with less included than with my budget choice so for that reason I've chosen Little Lambs. These shaped nappies are simple but reliable and fit most babies well and I would have no problem recommending them to someone who was on a strict budget but wanted to use washable nappies. This is what they include in the pack:

  • 40 shaped cotton nappies (20 size 1 and 20 size 2)
  • 40 washable fleecy liners
  • 20 Littlelamb wraps (the waterproof bit) 10 of each size
  • 20 night time boosters
  • 200 paper liners on two rolls
  • 2 lidded buckets
  • Complete use and care instructions and helpful advice

And the cost? £220.00 for a birth to potty pack of Little Lamb cotton nappies and wraps.

I suppose we should work backwards here and work out the weekly cost of buying these nappies

£220.00 for 130 weeks = £1.69 per week

The Birth to Potty Mixed Fitted and Pocket One Sized Nappy Kit

Many people like to use a mixture of pockets and fitted / shaped nappies and also like the idea of having nappies that are one sized to fit right through from newborn to potty training. In my research I've spotted a great example in a kit available from babykind.co.uk that fits the bill perfectly! This is what is included:

  • 12 grow-with-your-baby Wonderoos (choice of white or colours)
  • 12 one-size Wonder-Fulls nappy inserts
  • 6 Motherease One-Size nappies (white or unbleached)
  • 6 matching snap-in boosters (to boost absorbency for older babies, or as a trim nappy or insert for a newborn)
  • 6 white ultra slim fleece liners(and a few paper liners to try for free)
  • 3 Nature Babies Classic Covers One of each size newborn/small, small/medium (both size-adjustable) and large (choice of white, colours or prints)
  • 3 Motherease Air Flow wraps One of each size, S, M, L

Total value of pack to buy separately - £269.70

Birth to Potty Wonderoos and Motherease One Size Kit price - £250.00

So - £250.00 for 130 weeks = £1.92 per week for this cloth nappy option.

Sized WAHM (work at home mum) Pocket nappies

Perhaps the most expensive way to cloth nappy is to buy all sized nappies. There are more expensive makes you can get from the US and elsewhere but here I'll look at the costs of buying all your nappies from a UK WAHM (and thereby supporting local mum run businesses as well). The bonus for using sized nappies is that they will always be a lovely fit with no poppering up or down for different sized babies. You can get lovley handmade WAHM nappies from lots of places such as Pocket Bots, WeeNotions, and Upsy Daisy Nappies. They vary in price depending what you get but most are around the £10 mark so I will use this in my calculations.

  • 20 small WAHM pockets @ £10 = £200.00
  • 20 medium WAHM pockets @ £10 = £200.00
  • 20 large WAHM pockets @ £10 = £200.00
  • 20 Easy Peasy Hemp @ £2 / insert = £40.00
  • 21 microfibre cloths 3 pack @ £1 = £7

Sized handmade WAHM pockets from birth to potty training: £647.00

£647.00 for 130 weeks = £4.98 per week

So even if you go for the most expensive cloth nappy option you are still going to save over £600 compared to using disposables!!!! Please take into account that that will not need to find all this money in one go and that you will be able to sell your preloved nappies when you move up a size!


There are going to be some extra costs involved in washing real nappies from what I have read from various sources and from my own experience this is around £40 per year, so £100 over the nappy wearing period of your child.

Washable Wipes

These are GREAT, you are cleaning your baby with no chemicals like there are in disposable wipes and you save a packet! A set of 30 wipes will cost around £15, although you can make them yourself for free! I will say £15 to be totally fair in these calculations. They are washed in with your nappies so take no extra effort.

In Summary

Disposable nappies cost £1274

Disposable wipes cost £310.70

Total cost in the UK if using disposable nappies and wipes over 2.5 years = £1584.70

This does not include extras such as bags to put the nappies in and any extra costs from your council of disposing of your babies nappies.

Little Lambs Kit cost £220

Washable Wipes cost £15

Washing costs over 2.5 years £100

Total cost for this option for 2.5 years = £335

You save £1249.70

Mixed Kit from Babykind cost £250

Washable wipes cost £15

Washing costs over 2.5 years £100

Total cost for this option for 2.5 years = £365

You save £1219.70

WAHM made sized pockets cost £647

Washable wipes cost £15

Washing costs over 2.5 years £100

Total cost for this option for 2.5 years = £762

You save £822.70

This is not taking into account the fact that most cloth nappy users sell on the nappies that they are finished with in order to fund the next size up or they are kept and used on subsequent children - can you imagine the savings that you will see then!

There are more expensive nappies on the market as mentioned earlier, they may be imported, have special order embroidery etc, there is also the option of terry squares and wraps which would be even cheaper again! This is meant as a guide and you will obviously need to check the prices that I have mentioned at the time of your purchase.

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